Before modern technology existed, civilizations built incredible structures and sculptures that would live on in infamy. This is the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Of all of the 7 ancient wonders of the world, the Great Pyramid of Giza is both the oldest and the only one still surviving mostly intact today. Throughout the course of history, through the construction of every other wonder, none have come close to the engineering prowess demonstrated by the Egyptians who built the pyramids.
Construction on what was the tallest manmade structure for over 3,800 years was completed in 2560 B.C. Its prolific nature has driven many conspiracy theorists to ponder the techniques used for its construction. Due to the size of the stones used in construction, and the overall size of the structure, it seems impossible, even given modern equipment, that this structure could have been built 4,500 years ago. Accounts place the construction period only taking 10 to 20 years, which is far less than many of the lesser wonders of the world. There is truly no aspect of the Great Pyramid of Giza that does not astound onlookers, so how did they do it?
The general consensus between modern scholars is that all of the rocks were quarried and dragged into place. Part of what makes the materials used even more staggering is the fact that their source lies hundreds of miles away from the Pyramid. This means that the egyptian engineers and labor force would have transported materials weighing up to 16 tons by sheer man and horse power. These large limestone blocks were used to created the core of the structure, which is what can be seen of the pyramid today. The original pyramid would have been faced in casing stones to create a smooth and glossy exterior finish.
For many years it was believed that the pyramids were built using slave labor, but now, it is believed that it would have been a joint effort of all of the Egyptian people. The only way that the stones would have been able to have been moved to the build site would have been during the Nile’s annual flood period. This period would have spanned 3 months of every year, which would have also made farming the local land impossible. Scholars now believe that the whole of the Egyptian working population would have devoted their efforts to the construction of the period every year, for this three month period. Ultimately, this points to the Pyramid’s construction being a seasonal ordeal where 100,000 workers would work to make as much progress as they could within the allotted timeframe.
The original height of the structure was 481 feet, dwarfing anything else that man had ever built or would build for the next 3,800 years. Aside from the external structure, engineers built internal passageways into the pyramid to house the body of King Khufu and his adornments. Many of the internal passages weren’t discovered until fairly recent times, and while their architecture is stunning, they barely compare to the stunning nature of the structure as a whole.
Many modern studies have been conducted on the Great Pyramid, including one from a team of engineers and Egyptologists. Using a critical path analysis model, and assuming that no levers, pulleys, wheels or iron tools were used in its construction, they estimated that it took 10 years to complete, start to finish. This is on the lower end of early estimates, but throughout all estimates, the timeline moves at a staggering pace.
It is amazing to imagine that a structure built 4,500 years ago still stands today. It gives engineers across the world some perspective of the lasting impact that our work may have on the world. Not everyone may build a “great pyramid,” but as engineers we have the potential to.